The booger in the pool is way more important to me than what place I came in at the 1988 or 1992 trials.
#LitBeat: NERD JEOPARDY!
By Rachel Hurn.
“Why are we doing this?” Ryan Chapman asked the crowd. “Because being lit majors was a mistake and this will make us feel better.” Chapman, who works at FSG , is the master mind and MC behind “Nerd Jeopardy,” an event he created to promote the publishing house’s online newsletter, Work in Progress.
Last night McNally Jackson Books in SoHo hosted “Nerd Jeopardy,” but Chapman first held FSG’s Jeopardy at Lolita Bar and then at Housing Works. Soon enough, he said, they needed more space: “My friends were half the audience when we first started,” he said. “And now it’s about eighty-five to a hundred people every time.”
In a room of about a hundred people, some forty of them were wearing glasses, including Ryan, who stood at a podium to the side of the screen situated between Poetry and Self-Help. Teams of at least three players wrote their names on a paper and tossed it into a box, from which only three total teams would be chosen to compete in the night’s game. Chapman, who enthusiastically pointed the audience to the free wine table—“A sober audience is a mean audience,” he said—spelled out the details of the game, which, much like regular Jeopardy, included questions answered in the form of a question. “If they don’t answer in the form of a question,” he said, “heckling is encouraged.”
The teams chosen were #NerdAlert, Sexy Swamp People, and The Bohemoths, who were told to sit on the benches in front of the audience. “So it’s really humiliating when they get an answer wrong,” Chapman explained. He handed out little plastic security lights purchased at Staples for a designated team member to flash in his direction when they knew the answer.
Suddenly, the bright blue board popped up. Round One, five categories, 100-500 points. The first five categories included: Numbers, Will You Please, Publish My Novel, Please!, Magazine Editors, Read that Tune, and “The Real World” and Literature, which was a mash-up between the popular MTV show and a book title. Chapman looked to the skinny, bearded man in rectangle glasses with a MacBook Air in his lap to start the game, “You know where you click, Steve. God I hope this works.”
#NerdAlert immediately took the lead, answering all five of the Magazine Editors questions. Angharad (the ‘g’ is silent) Coates, #NerdAlert’s member who did most of the buzzing, was on such a role that she began using questions for everything, “What is Numbers for four-hundred please,” to which Chapman responded, “I like your enthusiasm.”
Topics became increasingly hard. The Audio Daily Double, for example, played a Barry White song and asked which 1985 novel would have been sexier if combined with the tune. The answer? Barry White Noise. Chapman was clearly having fun, thanking the crowd for heckling the team members, and speeding up the game once the wine ran out. He read the question to “Which Republican candidate wrote this book?” slowly, “Never Call Retreat (colon), Lee and Grant (colon), the Final Victory.”
Suddenly, Final Jeopardy jumped to the screen: Scottish Poets. A groan from the crowd. “Who wrote the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’?” Not surprisingly, Coates, who later said, “My mother plays real Jeopardy regularly,” knew the answer: “Who is Robert Burns,” bringing her team to final victory at 14,900 points.
Coates and her fellow mates Lauren Reddy, from Workman Publishing, and Liz Stein from Penguin Group, divvied up their prizes—a Paris Review Box Set, The Oxford Companion to Beer, and Skippy Dies. Chapman dismissed the audience: “Okay, that’s it everybody. Go buy books!” In response, the man behind the wine table called out “All these books are for sale.”
The next Nerd Jeopardy event will be held on April 17th at McNally Jackson Books
Occupy! The Book by Rachel Hurn
On December 16th, the eve of OWS’s three-month anniversary, some two hundred people came to 20 Jay Street to celebrate the launch for Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America. Occupy! is a collaborative new book out from small press Verso, whose sprawling 10th floor Brooklyn loft hosted the event. The book is based off of n+1's OWS-inspired Gazette.
Astra Taylor greeted at the door. One of the main editors for n+1’s Gazette, Ms. Taylor explained that after visiting Zucotti Park on September 17th, the first day of OWS, she hooked up with Keith Gessen, n+1's founding editor, and developed a core group of people interested in writing about the movement.
“I did a lot of writing and commissioning for writing,” Ms. Taylor said. “It occupied my life.”
According to Jacob Stevens of Verso, n+1 offered “Exponentially the best writing on the movement.” Stevens approached the editors to see about collaborating on a book, and an impressive six weeks later, Occupy! was born.
The first two n+1 Gazettes form the basis of Occupy!, along with some additional contributions. According to Ms. Taylor, the writing was meant not to be rhetoric, but was meant to come from someone situated in the movement, someone sympathetic.
“When I first started handing out the Gazette, people were offering me $10 a copy when it was free,” she said. “The zeitgeist of OWS is print. It seemed appropriate to have a text-based project.”
The Gazette trilogy was laid out on a side table, distinguished by primary colors — red for the first issue, blue for the second, and green for the third. Scenes from Zucotti Park projected against a white wall. The Occupy! book lay on a different table, on sale for $5 a copy. Most people were nursing $2 Brooklyn Lagers, two-stepping across the floor in various versions of the same leather boot. There was no food, but people seemed happy. A DJ played music so loudly that a group of girls started dancing in the middle of the room.
Over four hours all two-hundred plus books were sold. An Occupier wearing barefoot shoes was thinking of purchasing a copy, but not for himself. “I don’t think I’ll have time to read it,” he said, “but my mom will.”